Local kids see ‘STARS’ at Vilar Center
BEAVER CREEK – Kids don’t get to the theater very often.Sure, plenty of kids hit the movie houses for the latest from Disney or Dreamworks. But most local kids don’t have many opportunities to see professional actors performing on stage. Thanks to a program at the Vilar Center in Beaver Creek, kids get that chance at least once a year.Every year, the theater brings in plays geared toward kids in elementary and middle school. Just about every student in those grades gets to see at least one of those plays. In all, nearly 3,500 kids went to the Vilar Center last year. Best of all, every kid from Eagle County got in free.The program that brings all those kids to the theater is called Support the Arts Reaching Students, or STARS.
Now in its eighth year, the Vilar program for kids has become a staple of the school year for kids in all the valley’s schools, public and private. But the Vilar’s program isn’t unique.”Every theater has an unwritten rule about offering youth programs,” said Martha Brassel, one of the center’s program managers. “This is the only way a lot of kids will get to the theater.”And for many of those students, a trip to the theater is really something special.”A lot of them get dressed up,” Brassel said. “They really go all-out.”At first, kids had to pay to get into the plays. Tickets were only $6, but a lot of families didn’t feel they could afford it, so many students stayed in class while others went to the Vilar.A few years ago, local resident Bob Hernreich picked up the tab for the program so all students could go.
“It’s been free ever since,” Brassel said. “After that, we just said ‘That’s the way we need to do things.'”Last year, the theater paid for the program out of its general budget, but most years, sponsors pick up at least part of the bill. For this year’s shows, Pat and Peter Frechette, who own a home in Beaver Creek, wrote a check to sponsor the STARS series.The kids respond to the shows, too.”Parents say they get an earful the night after the shows,” Brassel said. “They hear all about it.”Teachers hear about the shows, too.”The kids come back pretty jazzed up,” said Dave Kramer, the music teacher at Eagle Valley Elementary School. “It’s really an extraordinary thing for some of these kids to see the Vilar Center. And a lot of the same kids don’t have the experience of seeing live performances.”
Nancy Sandberg, the music teacher at Red Sandstone Elementary School, has two preschoolers of her own who enjoy the shows at the Vilar as much as her students do.Some of the kids come back to music class saying, “I want to do that,” Sandberg said. And Brassel believes one local kid is pursuing a career in dance because of the shows and the chances he’s had to perform at the Vilar.Jonathan Windham, a Battle Mountain High School graduate who’s now a freshman at the State University of New York at Purchase, was exposed to the Vilar at a young age. He got involved in the Vail Youth Ballet program, and has danced “The Nutcracker” at the Vilar.”The exposure to all this might have given him his passion,” Brassel said.The chance to see stagecraft up close and personal is a relatively new development, and it’s something that Sandberg loves.
“This valley didn’t start with a lot of culture,” she said. “Now, we’re lucky to have it. We’re lucky to be raising kids here.”On the Web: ww.vilarcenter.orgStaff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado